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Jinfengopteryx elegans

Ji Q., Ji S., Lu J., You H., Chen W., Liu Y., and Liu Y. (2005). First avialan bird from China (_Jinfengopteryx elegans_ gen. et sp. nov.) Geological Bulletin of China 24(3): 197-205.

_Jinfengopterx_ is called the "first" avialan bird, but the authors really seem to mean "most primitive" rather than "earliest". The specimen (a complete skeleton; CAGS-IG-04-0801) comes from the middle of the Qiaotou Formation of Hebei Province, which is below the Yixian Formation, but of uncertain age (Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous). The specimen measures 54.8 cm long, around half of which is the tail.

The phylogenetic analysis puts _Jinfengopteryx_ as sister taxon to _Archaeopteryx_, implying a monophyletic Archaeopterygidae at the base of the Avialae (which excludes _Rahonavis_). The two genera do appear to be very similar in overall anatomy. The authors nevertheless regard _Jinfengopteryx_ as more primitive than _Archaeopteryx_, due to its shorter rostrum, smaller forelimb/hindlimb ratio, and more cursorial proportions. The specimen of _Jinfengopteryx_ appears to be adult (based on skeletal fusions), so the more cursorial proportions would not be a product of ontogeny as we see in _Archareopteryx_ (if "_Jurapteryx_" is an immature specimen of _Archaeopteryx_).

Feather impressions indicate that _Jinfengopteryx_ lacked wings on the legs (a la _Microraptor_, _Pedopenna_, etc). The authors suggest that _Jingengopteryx_ supports the cursorial ("ground-up") origin of bird flight, but this is a stretch IMHO.

The name is derived from "Jinfeng": "golden phoenix, the queen of birds in Chinese folklore".